On Wedding Brain and Bridal Solidarity

Last week, I made more progress towards planning my wedding. I met with our caterer and his assistants at our venue and went through the logistics. And we got our license (less than six months away!). It was exciting to see things start coming together, and it gave me an excuse to take an entire day off work and think about nothing but wedding, which is important for a bride planning an event.

Then, I also learned that a coworker had gotten engaged, so of course, I went by her desk to congratulate her. But I also offered her the support of a sympathetic ear if she ever wants to obsess about wedding planning and it seems like everyone else around her is sick of it. Because this struggle is real.

I really never thought I would be *that* bride, the one who was obsessed with swatches and decorations and everything. But here we are. I’ve even planned a wedding before, but it was a much smaller event and took place rather quickly (four months from proposal to wedding). Plus, I was in school at the time, so I didn’t have as much mental free energy to waste.

This time around, I have all the mental energy to waste on it. And I’m planning a more elaborate event. And, of course, second-guessing every choice I make. For example: I recently decided what would actually be my “dream” wedding and it’s pretty far from what we’re planning.

My Dream: We wake up in the morning, put on nice clothes, and drive out to a little vintage chapel near our house, where we can have a simple, humanist ceremony, with whoever is up to join us. Then, we come back to the house and host a big luncheon/open house for friends and family, mostly in our back yard, with the option of squeezing inside if it rains. Simple, classic, and very old-fashioned.

Instead: The only concrete input Fiancé has given in terms of what he wants (it’s his first marriage) is that he wants to have a dance party for his friends. So dancing is a must. Given that, we have to rent a hall. And, honestly, we first met and became close going to dance lessons together, so it makes sense. We dance at everyone else’s weddings; of course we’re going to dance at our own.

So there I go again. Before I devolve into discussing caterers and music equipment, I’m going to stop myself. Wedding brain is real. It occupies prime mental real estate. And I know I’ve annoyed even the most wedding-obsessed of my non-planning friends.

So I’ve extended the branch of wedding brain acceptance to another woman going through it, in the hope that we can support each other. Forming a grand sisterhood of the wedding brain. And isn’t that what support is all about?

Life with Cat

It has been over two months since the lovely people at the local rescue brought TweedCat to our house. She’s certainly settling in nicely. And so are we. It’s made me realize just how different living with one’s own cat is. I’ve had dogs in the past, and I’ve lived with other people’s cats in the past, but I’ve never had a cat of my own.

I am a determined cat person. I’ve wanted a cat since I was a small child. My mother taught me that I couldn’t have a cat while I was at home because everyone else in my family is allergic. But she would asked me “When can you have a kitty?” from the time I was small, and I would answer “When I have a place of my own.” And that’s how it always was. When I had my own place, I would have a cat. That was always assumed. I even included my hypothetical future cat when I wrote an essay in the fifth grade about what I thought my life would be like when I was thirty (NB: I was an anthropologist living alone in an apartment with a cat).

And then, I went away to college. But even though I had a place of my own, I knew it was temporary. I wasn’t planning on staying in my college town past graduation, and most of the local rescues wouldn’t adopt pets to college students anyway. A wise choice, in my book. So I had the place, but not the cat. And then, in graduate school, I first lived with a woman who had her own cat. From there, I moved in with the man who would become my first husband. And who is allergic to cats. So we got a dog. And I thought for a while that maybe I was actually a dog person.

After my divorce, I lived in a string of shared housing again. And finally, I settled in a house with Fiancé. Of course, the lease on the house stated no pets. So when we were considering moving, we talked about it with our landlady and she gladly amended it.

Again, we looked at getting a dog. But dogs require time that we don’t necessarily have to give. And cats are a little more solitary. So I broached the subject with Fiancé: Why don’t we go look at cats. And we did. And I met TweedCat. And completely fell in love, and the rest is history.

Now, my mornings are different than they were. I still wake up early, before Fiancé, and make my cup of tea. But now, I also feed TweedCat. She certainly makes sure I know that’s part of the routine. And when I get home, I have a sweet kitty who’s happy to see me. And sometimes, especially early in the morning, when I’m sitting quietly, usually on my computer or maybe watching TV, drinking a cup of tea, I’ll look down, and there will be a little face staring up at me from the floor at the foot of my seat. I’ll pat the chair and she’ll hop up. And then she’ll curl up in my lap and purr. And it’s very nice.

Cats that aren’t your cat don’t necessarily do that. I had plenty of my housemates’ cats jump up and sit next to me or let me pet them or beg me for food. But none of them ever treated me like their person. Because I wasn’t. Now, I have a cat of my own. And I’ve become somecat’s person. And it’s lovely.

On Acting One’s Age

I posted on Friday about looking one’s age and about how I don’t, apparently, though I think I do and I think I’d really rather look my age than not have it show how much life I’ve lived. I thought I’d do a companion piece in a similar vein about acting one’s age.

First of all, what does that even mean, acting your age? When I was a kid, my dad would say “Act your age, not your shoe size,” which I suppose meant that I was being particularly immature. And I suppose that’s a bit of it. I mean, we all have a pretty clear idea of what a child should act like as opposed to an adult. But it’s all rather vague and imprecise.

I mean, when you’re a teenager, where does that leave you? I suppose if one really wanted to act like a teenager, one would affect a rebellious and surly attitude (I don’t mock; I was a moderately surly teenager myself).

But what does “acting your age” mean when you’re an adult? What does it mean to act like a 20-year-old vs. a 30-year-old? Or a 40-year-old? Does it keep going? Is there a standard of comportment throughout the decades?

I really think not. And this is what I consider when I think about acting my age. The single biggest thing that has happened with how I act as I’ve gotten older is my increase in confidence. I’ve heard older women talk about it all the time, how they wish they had the confidence that they have now when they were as young as they wish they looked. But really, part of it for me is accepting my looks, accepting compliments, and accepting that people who decide to react negatively to my appearance are probably not worth my time.

For me, acting my age is about asserting myself for myself and for others who aren’t as assertive. It’s being able to get noticed to be served at a bar, but to point out others near me who haven’t been noticed despite being their longer.

Most of all, acting my age has involved a certain development of personal style. I call this “acting my age” and not “looking my age” because the confidence that comes with getting older is how I’ve found the self-awareness to know what is really my preference, versus someone else telling me what’s chic, as well as the necessary stylish elan to carry it off and look creative and personal rather than just odd. Although a certain amount of odd does belong in my personal style.

So I suppose, in short, acting my age has meant coming into my own and as I get older, acting like myself.

On Becoming the Zen Master of Wedding Planning

So I’m planning a wedding. This is not known for being one of the most meditative and relaxing practices. And I’ve been married before, so I have that minefield to walk. As a result, I’ve found myself reading my share of wedding planning websites and message boards. And I’ve noticed that when I respond to threads with advice, my voice is starting to sound more and more like some Jedi-Zen-monk-bride. While I can be a very perfectionist person in my day-to-day life, I’m turning out to be a surprisingly chill bride.

The starting point of my wedding planning philosophy is pretty well summed up in this article. No matter what you do or how much you try to please everyone, someone will be offended and complain about your wedding. So rather than waste energy trying to dance around potential offense, I’ve decided not to care. I’m having the wedding I’m having. I try not to be mean-spirited or deliberately exclusive, but other than that, I’m going to do what I’m going to do.

And that means saying no to things. No, we’re not sending announcements to people who aren’t invited. No, we’re not having a small gift registry just in case someone really can’t bring themselves to show up empty handed. No. Just no.

What I’ve learned from all this is that it is a lot easier to plan a wedding as a self-actualized thirty-something woman than as a mid-twenties student. I’m a lot more confident about saying no to things that I don’t want (or legitimately make me uncomfortable). And the flip side is that I’m finding it easier to say yes to things even though they’re expensive and frivolous. We have the money for it, so I’m going to have my vintage venue and catered brunch with staff to help set up and serve. And flowers. I love flowers. And a photographer to take amazing professional photos at a fair price for his skill and training.

And you know what? This philosophy might look different to you. Staying true to your vision might mean letting your mother have more say because it’s more important to you that she feels intimately involved than to have exactly the decorations you dreamed of. Or it might mean something else entirely. It might involve a church. And that’s okay. The only thing that’s not okay is expecting the world to share and approve of and fund your vision. Also, being mean to people for the sake of being mean kind of sucks. But the are plenty of situations where wedding compromises might come off as mean on the surface. Forgive yourself, move on, and have the event that will make you deliriously happy.

Just remember that at the end of the day, the most important thing is the person you are marrying and the fact that you’re planning on spending the rest of your life together. Just because you have a vision doesn’t mean everything will go to plan. It will rain. Someone you don’t expect may show up. A flight may get canceled. The dress might not come in time. But ultimately, none of that really matters if you love each other. You could get married in a refrigerator box and as long as it’s legal, your wedding was a success.

So for someone who has trouble doing just this, I’m finding it easier to relax about the wedding, comparatively. And I hope any soon-to-be-brides can join in as we Zen our way to our wedding days — bugs, rain, and all!

How Playing Pokemon Go Led Me To Mordor

Hi! I’m Elizabeth, and I’m an adult woman that plays Pokemon. Or rather, I did play Pokemon, for a couple months at least. You see, when I returned from a business trip, I found that Boyfriend (oops, Fiancé) had discovered this new game that he thought we should try playing together. He plays a lot of computer and video games and has tried to get me interested in the past, but this one was different: this one makes you go outside. And I love going outside. I found it actually strengthened our relationship because we went on long walks together and then some of the time we spent lounging on the couch on our smartphones we were actually interacting and discussing the game.

Plus, I found a wild Pikachu on my walk to work and they’re adorable.

Now, I walk 3 miles to and from work every day and try to get in a little more besides that. But on days I work from home, or on weekends, I find it hard to get off the couch. Pokemon became a great motivator to walk on normally-sedentary days. I liked the fact that I was walking for a purpose, rather than just for the sake of walking. Walking with a goal in mind. It made me feel rather like an adventurer from one of the fantasy books I read. I couldn’t get where I needed to go other than by walking, so I walked all over the place.

And then Fiancé and I went to Montreal and we REALLY walked. Like, 10 miles a day. We fell out of the habit of playing Pokemon because we didn’t want to be distracted by our phones in an unfamiliar area, but we walked a lot. And it got me thinking about what I really liked about Pokemon Go: the idea of walking for a purpose.

That brought up a memory of a walking challenge I’d heard of a while ago called the Eowyn Challenge, where you log your daily walking and as it adds up, you set goals in terms of the landmarks in the journeys of the characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So you can virtually follow Sam and Frodo’s journey to Mordor by showing how your daily mileage adds up. So rather than going back to trying to catch seven gajillion Magikarp near the lake near my house, I decided to log my daily miles in terms of a walk to Rivendell. And then Lothlorien. And onwards. I know that if I walk an average of 5 miles a day, it’ll get me to Rivendell in about three months, so that’s a good start, and it inspires me to add walks in, and plan longer walks to bump up my average mileage.

It also helps reinforce walking as a mode of transportation for me. When I’m in an unfamiliar city, I walk a lot more, simply because I don’t have a car, and I’m not familiar with the public transit. I’d rather walk a few miles than try to figure out the bus system sometimes. Especially when doing so involves testing my confidence in my French language skills. But in my own town, I default to driving or taking the train a little longer to walk a little less. Why do that? Why not try walking a couple miles to that lunch place I like on my work-from-home day? Why not walk to my favorite coffee shop when I have the time on the weekend? And along the way, I get to pretend I’m a Tolkeinian adventurer, albeit with less hirsute feet.

On Major Life Events, Planning, and Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

As those of you who follow me on Instagram know, I have a bit of a reason for not blogging for a month.

Boyfriend is no longer Boyfriend. Instead, he is Fiancé. He asked me to marry him just before our vacation at the beginning of August. So I have spent the last month, yes, in Montreal for a week, but also in a flurry of preparation. Since we have just booked our venue, I hope I can calm down and devote mental energy to other things.

Just don’t bet on it.

In the meantime, here is the ring, in case you missed in on Instagram:

Because Fiancé knows me very well, he found a simple, vintage ring from the early 20th century in rosy gold with two moonstones, in a setting called “Toi et Moi,” or “You and Me.” It’s simple, lovely, and just a bit old-fashioned, while also seeming very different from many engagement rings I see so often.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month. While I still have plenty of planning yet to do, hopefully, I find some time to update this space a bit more regularly.

 

On Taking a Break, Remembering One’s Mortality, and Finding Simple Joy

What an ominous title, I know. But I’ve had a bit of an ominous weekend and I thought I’d talk about it. It has been a long time since I’ve posted here, and this was not the post I was planning for my triumphant return. In fact, I’ll be posting about travel beauty products later. But then this came up.

This weekend, I spent Sunday morning at the Urgent Care center because I thought there was something wrong with my heart.

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Spoiler: there is nothing wrong with my heart.

Anyway, starting about a week ago, I was trying to fall asleep and I felt what I can only describe as a kind of flutter-thud in my chest. My heartbeat felt weird. Like it was skipping every fifth beat. I tried taking my pulse with a heart rate app I have, as well as by feeling my neck, and I had Boyfriend try to take it independently. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that my chest felt… wrong. Now, I know I have anxiety, and I know I have a family history of anxiety sending people to the ER. I also know I have no family history of heart disease. So intellectually, I knew that I was almost certainly not having a heart attack. So I didn’t let Boyfriend drive me to the ER that night. But then the next night it happened. And the next night. When I noticed it during the day the next day, I decided I needed to do something. I called up and got a next-day appointment. And tried to relax until it was time to go.

That night, I really wondered if I’d done the right thing by not insisting on going in right away. What would happen if I’d been wrong and my heart stopped the night before I was supposed to see the doctor. Now, Boyfriend had a big event coming up, so I didn’t want to worry him as much as possible, so I stewed in silence. And I didn’t really sleep.

Sunday, we woke up, showered, and went for our standard Sunday morning coffee date, though I stuck to herbal tea. And then to the doctor. The actual visit was relatively mundane, although perhaps I was forcing myself to see it as mundane to prevent myself from freaking out. Fewer than five minutes after I checked in, I was called in to get an ECG. I made a Matrix joke as they hooked up all the electrodes. Then, I was shown to a bed. Not the waiting room. Not a chair in an exam room. But a bed in a private, curtained room. That was a bit weird. I gave samples of practically all my fluids, and talked to the doctor, who listened to my heart and chatted a bit about what they were up to. Basically ruling out the big stuff so that I could go home with peace of mind. Then I got a gown and a chest X-ray. Then, back to my bed until they looked at all the tests. I joked around and texted hospital gown selfies to Boyfriend, who was still in the waiting room, and messaged with a friend of mine who had dealt with something similar. And then the doctor came in and told me that everything looked clear except a couple of non-time-critical tests that took longer to process. I was free to go once they removed my IV.

And then it was over. I was free. Clean bill of health, nothing immediately wrong. I almost instantly felt better, just knowing that I was okay. Of course, they hadn’t actually done anything, but I had already suspected this was mostly due to nerves.

But then, every time I looked down at my arm, I saw the bruising from the IV. And I would keep getting email alerts of new test results (all negative). And I realized that it wasn’t all mundane and casual.

I woke up the next morning and walked around the lake and looked around me and realized just how much I was looking at the world just a bit differently. Even though I’m still young, it was one of my first real reminders of my own mortality in a long time, and it was poignant, if not serious. And really, the only thing I could think to do was to sit down and write a little bit about it, because I haven’t really fully processed it yet.

The Most Important Thing My Mother Taught Me

This post is my entry into Fiddy’s contest at Fifty Shades of Snail, in collaboration with Beautibi. I highly recommend you check out her blog as a fantastic resource for all things related to complicated skin care.

Mother

My mother is a remarkable woman. She was married for almost thirty years, raised two children, and has worked in multiple careers, reinventing herself after her divorce and overcoming challenges throughout her life. And I consider her one of the most inspiring people in my life. I’m sure she would be surprised to hear this as I’m certain she thinks both of her daughters have surpassed her professionally and intellectually. But the fact is I learned how to learn from my mother.

Mom was never one to shy away from a challenge. When we were children, she hand-made all of our Halloween costumes, despite being a mediocre seamstress at best. And when I invariably wanted to be something obscure (like Artemis, goddess of the hunt), she was the one who came with me to the library and poured over books finding ideas that were both faithful to the original material, as well as logistically feasible for outdoor trick-or-treating in weather that could range from unseasonably warm to snowing.

With the advent of the internet in our house, my mother started finding her true place to shine: internet research. In addition to Halloween costumes, over the years, she used her internet search savvy to help her in her divorce, as well as to become the reigning champion at her office football pool. When I started internships at national laboratories, she came to my summer symposium armed with knowledge to converse with Nobel Laureates despite not graduating college. For her, the important part was the process, not the superior feeling of knowing more than other people. She wanted to learn in order to interact.

And this is something that has stuck with me. It is not the best thing to know things; it is better still to enjoy learning. This has stuck with me through college and graduate school, a PhD and research jobs, and a career shift. It has taught me that even though others might treat me like I’m smarter, everyone has something to teach me. And she has taught me the skills I’ve needed to navigate my personal care routines. Her web research savvy has helped me find the resources to make educated decisions about my health and beauty when formal sources of knowledge have fallen short.

It is this that I most appreciate and that I most cherish. She may have taught me to make a bechamel sauce and how to put in a zipper (or at least tried!), but she also taught me to cherish learning for itself. And that will be useful no matter what I need to learn.

(The photo is from the first time we sheet masked together. What doesn’t show in the photo is my mother making a stabbing motion with her off-camera arm because she thinks we look like serial killers.)

On Instagram and my Blogging Evolution

When I was a teenager, I had a diary. I wrote in it erratically. When I was having boy troubles or drama, I would write in it more frequently. It wasn’t pink or have a lock; it was just a regular blank-book journal that I made entries in when I wanted to obsess about something normal teenaged girls obsess about or coo over how many dolphins I saw when we went to the beach. I remember some of the entries, although I don’t have the physical books anymore. My mother definitely used to read it, and even found out things she probably didn’t want to know about me from it.

Then the internet came along. I got an email account and a LiveJournal. I mostly wrote LiveJournal posts back and forth with my then-long-distance-boyfriend. When I was happy in my relationship, I wrote about inane things like taking long walks and having a lovely cup of tea (funny how things don’t change). I even got my first troll, who seemed personally offended by the light, happy, sweet tone of the journal. I eventually abandoned both the relationship and the LiveJournal.

Much later on, I started a Blogger blog about running and cooking. Mostly I’ve always been a fair cook and people always asked for my recipes. At the time, I was a relatively high-mileage runner, and I did long runs on Saturday, so I would blog each weekend about my post-run brunches. I also cooked dinner from scratch every night for my then-husband. It offered me an opportunity to make a record of my recipes and also an easy way to share the links with friends who asked. Along the way, I became interested in various alternative diets.

This morphed into a blog about herbalism, which later on morphed into a blog about Zen when I was going through the upheaval around my divorce. Eventually I realized that while Zen and minimalism appealed to me when I was essentially a nomad and feeling very cut loose in life, I am not by nature a minimalist, and my own personal lightness and fluff (long walks and tea time) started creeping back in.

Which brings us to Tea Leaves and Tweed. This is not an entirely fluffy blog. It’s not just a tea blog or a beauty blog or a style blog. It’s not really a lifestyle blog except inasmuch as it represents my lifestyle. But it’s a place to share my thoughts and hope that maybe someone else finds them interesting to read.

Sadly, I often become too lazy to do all the work that goes into a really good blog post. I don’t take the time to take photos, upload them, edit them, and craft them into a blog post with visual appeal. Sometimes it’s just me at the keys and my thoughts as text. But lately, I’ve started seeing Instagram as a sort of mini-blogging platform. Instead of just snapping a picture and sharing it with an “isn’t this neat?” caption, I’ll write a couple of sentences and share something from my life that goes along with the photo. So anyone who wonders where I’ve gone when I’m not posting here, I encourage you to check out my Instagram and see if that, more bite-sized format is proving less difficult for me at the time.

At the very least, you’ll get to see pictures from my long walks and tea times.

Weekend Excursions and Excitement

I had a lovely weekend. Boyfriend was gone for the evening on Friday visiting his parents to pick up some things they had for him, so I went to my mother’s for the evening. We decided to start watching Orphan Black and I introduced her to the wonders of sheet masks. We took a scary selfie and sent it to Boyfriend. My mother was doing the Psycho stabbing motion. Because we are silly. It was nice to just hang out and be low-key with her without either of needing a medical procedure. The next morning she had an early appointment, so we just had a bit of tea and toast before heading out.

It was nice to get home at a decent hour, as I had a baby shower to attend later that afternoon and felt like getting ready at a leisurely pace. I got a manicure last Monday that lasted all of two seconds without chipping, so I finally got around to removing my polish and decided to use my extra time to give myself a little manicure. I was feeling fancy, so I put on some dubbed anime (so I wouldn’t have to look at the screen) and did my first attempt at a “blush” or “cheek” nail, which is a rather lovely soft pink central gradient nail. I used my standard translucent pink, Ballet Bare from Sally Hansen, with a lovely coral color (Tiddly by Butter) as the gradient. It took about an hour of leisurely effort because I made very sure that the various coats were dry in between steps. And I became rather absorbed in Fullmetal Alchemist in the process. I emerged with lovely, spring-y nails that have so far lasted me three days, despite the fact that I did them by my very non-professional self, and used the nail products that have languished in my bathroom cabinet ignored for the last year.

The baby shower was lovely and I got to see a lot of friends whom I see not nearly often enough. And when I got home, Boyfriend had returned from his trip with exciting new things. The main thing he went up to get was an antique vanity that his father decided I should have because I would put it to good use. Unfortunately, one of the mirror supports is slightly cracked, so we had to stop in the middle of putting it together to see if it needs to be repaired, but it really is a lovely piece. I was hoping to share photos of my new vanity setup, but I suppose it will have to wait. Boyfriend also brought back some lovely floral china plates that he saw and immediately knew I would love. It’s nice to be with someone who understands you.

The rest of Saturday was quiet, and our Sunday morning was rather boring as well, save for the wild winds that were going on outside. Boyfriend took a trip out to the store so I could cook for the week ahead. Tech week for my play started yesterday afternoon, so I spent the morning cooking breakfasts and lunches for the week so I can be healthy and still very, very busy. I now have a freezer full of healthy breakfast burritos, brown rice, and a fridge full of poached salmon and cucumber salad. And I got home from rehearsal last night with just enough time to do a bit of a clay mask and a sheet mask before falling into bed.

Today I’m back at work, but I have a few errands to run before rehearsal tonight. The errands mostly involve restocking my stage makeup kit, though, so it should be lots of fun!